My Top Tools for 2021

With the exception of 2012, I have participated every year in Jane Hart’s call asking what the top ten digital tools are that I use.  For the 15th Annual Survey, my top ten tools are listed below.


My choices this year reflect both the common themes I have used for quite a few years in my online teaching … and the realization that things have been different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


For this survey, I would list all of my tools under EDUCATION as the context … though Twitter, Feedly, and Inoreader certainly have PERSONAL LEARNING aspects to their use.  But I use all ten in my capacity as a graduate instructor for both Creighton University and Northeastern University.

As to why these ten ….

  1. Twitter  – I continue to use Twitter in all of my classes as a supplemental communication channel.  Both my Masters students and my doctoral students noted in the past year that Twitter gave them a sense of connection much like being in a classroom…and they appreciated the less formal aspect Twitter provided.  The community aspect also surfaces when previous students rejoin class dialogue…thanks to our class hashtag.  This is an EDU and PPL tool.
  2. Zoom – I do not use Zoom for synchronous class meetings, but I do use it frequently to work with my doctoral students on their dissertation.  The ability to meet, see body language, and importantly, laugh when things could be tense – Zoom provides an important channel for educational communication.  Primarily an EDU tool for me.
  3. MS Teams – I have used Teams more this past year in both faculty meetings for Northeastern, as well as with old college buddies when we meet monthly.  It has been invaluable working with colleagues in developing new programs.  This has been an EDU and PPL tool for me.
  4. Camtasia – In all my classes, I provide video overviews, and Camtasia is my go-to editing platform.  As I noted last year, I have used tips I learned from Mike Wesch to record short personal messages using my iPhone and splice them in to my Camtasia recordings. This is an EDU tool.
  5. iPhone Videos – I continue to think that Mike’s use of a smartphone to shoot simple quick videos was brilliant. Mike duct tapes his phone to his window, but I use a tripod so that I can shoot outdoors either on my deck or front lawn.  Since I added the videos this past 18 month, my students continually comment about how they now “know” me! One student recently noted that she uses Apple AirPlay to watch my videos on her TV…and her mom has become a fan! In the way that I use it, an EDU tool (I have yet to venture into TikTok!).
  6. Word – I do not think that I have ever listed Word as one of my top tools … even though I have used Word for the past two decades (WordPerfect before that!).  But in reflecting on my work this past year, much of that work involved mentoring doctoral students on their dissertations … and that meant lots of back and forth editing in Word documents.  Another EDU tool.
  7. Feedly – I stated last year that in an age where blogging seems to have declined, there are still enough of us blogging that aggregating blogs through RSS feeds works for me.  This remains true.  This is primarily a PPL tool for me, though it tends to feed updates to my EDU classes.
  8. Diigo – I continue to use a private Diigo group in my Masters class to collectively gather material for students to use in writing papers on attention, memory and thinking aspects of edtech.  It also forms my electronic brain, holding years worth of tagging (since 2012).  This is both an EDU tool and a PPL tool.
  9. Canvas – Both institutions for whom I teach moved to Canvas last decade, and I continue to like this LMS over others I have used (Blackboard, Bb Ultra, Angel).  Tying in to my next tool, Canvas is pretty customizable, and students like my consistent format.  I use weekly modules and have module pages for Preparation, Interactions, and Assessments, a variation of a model I have used for years based on the P-I-E format at St. Leo. Canvas is an EDU tool.
  10. Inoreader – I continue to use Inoreader as a blog aggregator for my doctoral class, where all students have their own personal blogs.  Inoreader can be embedded in the Canvas module so that students have a single place to visit to find fellow students’ posts.  Inoreader is an EDU tool for me.

Tools that did not meet the top ten cut-off, but definitely factor in to my work as an educator include this baker’s dozen – Tweetdeck, Snagit, YouTube, WordPress, Kahoot, Wakelet, Padlet, Prezi, Google Apps, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Dropbox… and Pandora always playing in the background!

Jane’s call for input to the 2021 list closes August 26, and a new 2021 list will be out in September.  I am looking forward to it, and really appreciate this service that Jane Hart has provided for 15 years!

{Graphics:  Shutterstock/alphaspirit, Jane Hart}

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